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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Lexicographical Beneficence - Rob Walker

Peter Arkle

Online entertainment improves on older forms, like television, by way of its activeness. For example, watching a presidential debate on TV is passive. Hunting for, commenting on, remixing and forwarding a YouTube video of someone being Tasered at a political event is active. Despite the unassailable nature of this popular critique, engagement can be judged in other ways. For example, among the many time-killing activities the World Wide Web makes available is While it is surely a diverting time killer, it is more than that: it’s a self-improvement time killer on behalf of a greater good. Let’s break it down. presents the visitor with a word and four choices as to what that word means. Click, learn the right answer and get another word. Correct answers lead to a higher score and harder words. It is, then, a “casual game,” the name given to a wide variety of electronic, computer or online games with a relatively simple structure and set of rules — a genre of diversion, not immersion. With tens of millions of regular players, “casual games are among the stickiest, most-sought-after content online,” according to a white paper posted on the site of the International Game Developers Association. The core texts of casual gaming are solitaire and Tetris. It’s a safe bet that a great deal of casual gaming occurs in the workplace, where it’s more discreet than paddle ball. [for more click on the heading]


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